Russian Admiral: Nothing Wrong with Sailors Sunbathing During Near Miss

In this image from video provided by the U.S. Navy, Russian sailors are sunbathing as their ship sails very close to the USS Chancellorsville while operating in the Philippine Sea, Friday, June 7, 2019. (U.S. Navy)
In this image from video provided by the U.S. Navy, Russian sailors are sunbathing as their ship sails very close to the USS Chancellorsville while operating in the Philippine Sea, Friday, June 7, 2019. (U.S. Navy)

"There is a time for war and a time for sunbathing," a retired Russian admiral said in defending the Russian sailors who were catching some rays while their destroyer nearly collided with the U.S. guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville last week.

The quote didn't quite have the ring to it of those from U.S. Navy lore, such as: "I have not yet begun to fight." -- John Paul Jones

"We have met the enemy, and they are ours." -- Oliver Hazard Perry

However, retired Russian Adm. Valentin Selivanov, former chief of staff of the Russian Navy and now a military analyst, apparently wanted to make clear that Russian sailors are well versed on when to tan and when to fight.

In remarks to Russian media outlets Monday, Selivanov appeared to echo the official Russian response in blaming the Chancellorsville for poor seamanship that brought the cruiser into a close encounter with a relaxed Russian warship, according to the Sputnik news agency.

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Videos of the incident last Thursday in the Philippine Sea released by the U.S. Navy showed several Russian sailors sunbathing on the aft helicopter pad, seemingly oblivious to the dangerous maneuver that brought the destroyer Admiral Vinogradov within 100 feet of sideswiping the Chancellorsvillle.

"Our vessel is on the move in the open sea," Selivanov said, according to Sputnik. "The seamen and officers have had lunch. They are on their after-lunch break, glad to be serving in the south.

"Sure, if one was sunbathing, then dozens were," he added. "And yes, you have to be undressed to sunbathe."

In contrast, the U.S. Navy charged that the Admiral Vinogradov maneuvered recklessly, risking an international incident and putting the Chancellorsville and her crew at risk.

"This unsafe action forced Chancellorsville to execute all engines back full and to maneuver to avoid collision," the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement.

In his own statement, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said, "The behavior by the captain of the Russian destroyer in the Philippine Sea was irresponsible and reckless."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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